Plants in Bloom, Feb. 6, 09

Plants are tough. How could something withstand the ice of last week, the constant low teens temperatures, then with only a couple of days of warmth, burst into bloom? As soon as the ice melted off the edge of the pathway by the kitchen door, this cluster of snowdrops (Galanthus) was in bloom. They are the first spring bulbs to bloom each year and originated in Asia Minor.

Also in bloom today is the helleborus, sometimes called lenten roses, which starts blooming in January and often remains in bloom through the end of May. Extracts of helleborus have been used in folk treatments and experimental therapies in Romania and Germany.

The dragon's blood sedum (Sedum spurium) is at its best now, as well. In the summer you can't quite understand where it gets its name as it is just another greenish sedum. But in the winter, it turns a brillant dark crimson and "spills" out onto the rocks, like the spilled blood of a dragon. Dragon's blood is one of those interesting plants that will grow just about anywhere, from on top of a rock with only a thimble full of soil, to the edges of the lawn, in a rock garden, on top of an old cellar or between the bricks of a pathway. While it does bloom in summer, the flowers do not compare to the brilliance of the leaves in winter.

Henbit also begins blooming now. I know there are more gardeners who declare war on henbit than those who don't, but it's a "weed" that is so incredibly innocent it's hard to understand all the wrath thrown at it. You can look on Fertilome or Scotts products and see it listed as, "a noxious weed," which their product controls. Home owners spray herbicides on their lawns, or use a granular form, to eradicate the plant. The home owner buys the product, spreads it on their lawn and in a few weeks, the henbit magically dies. Oddly enough, henbit magically dies whether you spray it or not. It's season runs from early February through April or May, then it yellows and dies, whether you spray it or not.

Henbit really doesn't cause any harm to the garden, although it does take up space you may want for your lettuce or other early crops. Pull it and it's gone, without any poison chemicals required. However, since it begins flowering so early, it spreads lots of tiny seeds throughout the season and will continue coming up. If you leave it alone the plant will be covered with hundreds of small, lavender flowers. You may see it covering an entire lawn or roadside and it's attractive, then it dies in late spring and is replaced by other green growing things. Harvest some henbit and chickweed and cook up a pot of early spring greens. Serve it with a batch of cornbread and you've got a traditional Ozarks supper.

(And if you look on the side of the package of either Fertilome or Scott's weed products, you'll see photos of other very edible, very tasty, "weeds."

Or, if you have a handsome goat, like Mr. Billy A. Goat, here, he will likely eat any of the henbit you gather for him.

We have compost piles at the edge of the garden where we compost a lot of the garden debris, but many times it's easier to simply toss things over the fence, where Mr. Billy is waiting. He, and his herd of nannies, will taste, and often eat, any of the weeds or garden trimmings that get tossed to them.

February is the month for planting seeds for spring plant. Tomatoes, peppers, herbs, achocha, all those things that will get planted outside after danger of frost, are ready to be started now.

We're making Dream Pillows and Dream Pillow Kits in the shop and Valentine's Day is always a popular time for those. We have a few customers who buy our Kits for 25 and 50, and use them in nursing homes as a craft activity. The nursing home residents like making the Dream Pillows and the staff love it because everyone sleeps really well afterward. To read more about Dream Pillows' uses, check here, or go to our Dream Pillows page.

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